Spaghetti is known to be a quick and easy weeknight meal. Growing up, it was our go-to whenever we were rushed and busy, which seemed to be often. We ate this meal so frequently that spaghetti became boring to me. As a teenager, I remember loathing the bland sameness of spaghetti. Later, as an adult, I went years without serving pasta in my own home, because it was “boring” in memory. Pasta doesn’t have to be boring, though. With a little planning and patience, pasta sauce can be an easy, yet flavorful addition to the dinner table.
Somewhere in my young adulthood, I learned that pasta sauce doesn’t have to be dumped out of a jar. In fact, a traditional Italian bolognese sauce isn’t hard to make. It just takes time. It needs to simmer. A traditional bolognese sauce is red like the American go-to spaghetti sauce, but it includes more vegetables, and a mixture of meats rather than just the “boring” ground beef of my memory.
The beef bolognese recipe that I’ve developed begins with ground Italian sausage. In a large stock pot, I brown the meat with diced onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Once done, I remove all of this from the pot and set it aside for later.
Cooked Italian sausage and veggies set aside for later.
Rather than use ground beef for this sauce, I use a beef roast. It doesn’t really matter which roast you choose. As pictured, I used a chuck roast. Whatever you choose, you’ll cut the roast into 1-2 inch cubes. I find this is easiest and fastest if you use kitchen scissors instead of a knife.
Whichever roast you choose, cut the meat into 1-2 inch cubes.
After cooking the sausage and vegetables, sear the meat in the same pot.
I salt and pepper the cubes of beef, and then using the grease from the sausage, I sear the cubes to lock in their juices for cooking. After all the beef has been seared, I add back the ground sausage and vegetables. I season the mixture, add a can of diced tomatoes, and two cups of dry red wine. That’s it, really. At that point, the sauce just needs time to mature. The whole mixture should simmer at least 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
The sauce is done when the beef is fall apart tender.
The sauce is done when the cubes of beef roast begin to fall apart. Once they are tender, I remove the beef with a slotted spoon and place it into a separate bowl. Using two forks, I pull the meat apart, and then return it to the sauce. If the meat is tough or resists, the sauce has not cooked long enough. The beef should easily fall apart with little effort.
This sauce can be served over any noodle of choice. It can also be used for a baked pasta. For a casserole-like presentation, you can pre-cook the noodles so they are al dente, and then mix the noodles with the sauce and lay it all into a 4 quart pan. Sprinkle a layer of fresh parmesan across the top and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything is warmed through.
Serve over your noodle of choice or use the sauce for a cheesy, baked pasta.
You will find that this bolognese sauce is easy and rich with flavor. It’s not the boring sauce of childhood. If you’d like this to be a weeknight meal, I imagine this could be easily adapted to a crockpot. As long as everything is sautéed and seared beforehand, all ingredients could be added to a slow cooker to simmer throughout the day. Play with the concept. Make it your own. Enjoy!
Beef Bolognese Sauce
– large pot
– 2-3 lb. beef roast, cubed
– 1 lb. Italian sausage
– 1 large onion, diced small
– 3 carrots, diced small
– 3 celery ribs, diced small
– 3 garlic cloves, diced small
– 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
– 2 cups dry red wine
– 6 fresh sprigs thyme, stems removed
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
– sea salt
– white pepper
1. Using kitchen scissors, chop the roast into 1-2 inch cubes. Discard large, fatty pieces. Liberally salt the cubes. Pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Dice the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic.
3. In a large pot, brown the Italian sausage with the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. When done, remove all ingredients from the pot and set them aside for later.
4. In the same pot, add some of the beef cubes. Don’t overfill the bottom of the pan. Each cube should make contact with the heat. Sear the cubes, turning them over every minute or so to brown each side. When browned, remove from the pot and sear the next batch until all the cubes are browned.
5. Add all cooked ingredients back into the pot: sausage, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and seared beef.
6. Add the can of diced tomatoes and the red wine. Add the fresh thyme, crushed red pepper, and bay leaves.
7. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
8. After simmering, use a slotted spoon to remove the beef cubes from the sauce. Place in a separate bowl. They should be tender and fall apart easily. If not, return them to the pot for more cook time. If done, shred the beef with two forks and then return the beef to the sauce.
9. Serve sauce over your noodle of choice or see commentary above for baked pasta instructions.
Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.